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Obama and Organics


By Paul Rutkovsky

Acronyms sometimes rule our world and can confuse us or put us to sleep. Don’t let that happen, because agribusiness is alive and functioning in the Obama administration.

The President has nominated Islam Siddiqui to be Chief Agriculture Negotiator (CAN). Presently, Siddiqui is vice president for agricultural biotechnology and trade at CropLife America, the trade group representing the U.S. agrochemcial industry. Huffington Post, quoting from Grist.Org, states, “Its mission: to hip the public (and the government) to the ‘benefits of pesticides and crop-protection chemicals’...” Grist.Org, an environmental news and commentary website, called Siddiqui’s nomination a “major coup” for the pesticide industry. Since Siddiqui’s background is genetically engineered (GE) crops, don’t expect to see organic farming become a priority following this nomination.

Be aware that Mr. Siddiqui will be negotiating with countries to introduce, or continue to use Monsanto’s Roundup Ready. For instance, Roundup Ready soybeans contain a gene from a bacterium that allows the plants to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Farmers can thus spray their fields with Roundup throughout the growing season to kill weeds without harming the crop. More than half the soybeans grown in the United States are now Roundup Ready. In Europe and Japan, the beans are approved for use, but not for planting.

Roger Beachy, the long-time president of Monsanto’s de facto nonprofit research center, has been installed as director of the USDA’s new National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Beachy, in charge of a $500 million budget and the country’s agricultural research policy, unfortunately won’t be subject to a public confirmation process.

In its first year in office, the Obama Administration has taken numerous steps to build the National Organic Program (NOP) and to include provisions for organic agriculture within USDA agencies. Most recently, USDA Secretary Vilsack appointed Dr. Kathleen Merrigan as USDA Deputy Secretary. Merrigan helped write the original organic law and advocates strengthening the NOP, which was weakened considerably by the Bush administration.

Michelle Obama has created the White House Kitchen Garden, planting herbs and vegetables with the help of children. Visit www.thewhofarm.org to see photos and videos about the garden.

A United Nations and World Bank commissioned report—the largest assessment of agricultural knowledge, science and technology in history—found that the answer to world hunger lies in agroecology (holistic agriculture) and free trade, not biotechnology, high-input industrial agriculture. However, the U.S. continues to pursue a policy entirely counter to the findings of this report.

All facts from the Organic Consumers Association’s web site: www.organicconsumers.org.


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